How to install Xdebug for PHP Tools for Visual Studio Code on Mac OS

Xdebug is an extension used for debugging PHP. One of the most popular IDEs, Visual Studio Code, can also benefit from Xdebug with PHP Tools. There are several ways to install Xdebug, but the most secure one is to compile the source code which is compatible with the specifications of your computer.

In this article, you will find out how to compile the source code to install Xdebug for "PHP Tools for VS Code" on macOS. We’ll assume that you have already installed PHP Tools for your macOS, but if you haven’t, you’ll find a tutorial right here.

1) Download the source file

Xdebug can be found on its webpage and it’s also hosted on Github. The source code can be downloaded from both locations. For this tutorial, we have downloaded it directly from the Xdebug page here.

Xdebug download

As explained on their website, Xdebug extensions are released for the PHP versions at the time, so there are releases of Xdebug as PHP versions there are. Some of these versions may not be compatible with your software. To be sure which file you need to download, you can use Xdebug’s Wizard.

  • First, get your php information. Open a command prompt, and then write:

    $ php –i


  • When your php information is displayed, select it all by pressing Cmd+A and then Cmd+C to copy it.

    phpinfo shown

  • Then, open the wizard here. On the white input box, paste the php information and press the analyse my phpinfo () output button.

    phpinfo analyze

  • The wizard will display the recommended file to download and also some additional instructions.

    Wizard instructions

  • Click on the download link on number 1 and save the source file.

2) Unpack the downloaded source file

The source file will be downloaded with the extension tgz or tar. Before the installation, you need to unpack it or uncompress it/untar it. For unpacking, you can either use any application like Unarchiver or just use the command prompt.

To unpack the tar/tgz file by using the command prompt, first, change the directory where you downloaded the file. By default, it’s downloaded to the “Downloads” folder. So, change the folder to “Downloads”.

cd downloads

Write the following command to untar the file. Be sure that the filename is exactly the same as the downloaded file.

$ tar -xzf xdebug-2.6.1.tgz 

tar Xdebug

This command will unpack the source file to a folder with the same name.

3) Prepare the environment

Before building the Xdebug extension, you need to setup the environment and phpize is used for this. You can read more about phpize here and here. Now, follow these steps:

  • First, change the directory to the folder which has just being unpacked from the source file. Then, run this in the command prompt:

    $ cd xdebug-x.x.xxxx 

    cd Xdebug

  • Then, write:

    $ phpize 


    If phpize is not in your path, you should use /path/to/phpize.

    phpize Xdebug

    If the phpize command works as expected, the result’s page must look like the picture below:

    phpize result

    If there is an autoconf error, you can install autoconf with Homebrew and then export it.

    $ /usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl –fsSL" 
    $ brew install autoconf 
    $ export PHP_AUTOCONF=/usr/local/bin/autoconf 

    In case of any missing x-code command line tools, run the following to install:

    $ xcode-select --install 

4) Configure the build

To configure the system for Xdebug, you need to get the build ready. Write in the command prompt:

$ ./configure —-enable-xdebug 

enable Xdebug

In case of errors in parameters, just use the command, ./configure:

$ ./configure 


And if ./configure is not in your path, write:

$ ./configure --enable-xdebug --with-php-config=/path/to/php-config

configure enable Xdebug

5) “Make” the build

Now, it’s time to finish the compilation of the source file. To build the software, just write:

$ make 


If you see the sentence “Build complete” in the command prompt, it means that the compiled file “” has been created in the “modules” directory.

6) Copy the compiled file

Now that the software is built and ready to run, the compiled file can be copied to its final destination. The make install command will copy the built program, its libraries and documentation to the correct locations.

make install

It’s important that you note the location of the destination directory which is displayed in the results to include it in the php.ini file.

You can also prefer not to use make install and copy the manually. Then, follow the next set of instructions.

  • First, create the destination directory. The destination folder is indicated in the Xdebug Wizard’s instructions page from step 1 (the red line on the picture below).

    wizard Xdebug destination folder

  • Run that command showed on number 8:

    $ mkdir /usr/local/lib/php/pecl/xxxxxxxx 


    Then, copy “” to the directory you just created.

    $ cp modules/ /usr/local/lib/php/pecl/xxxxxxxx copy

7) Edit your php.ini

By now, the compilation of the file,, is completed. But you still need to introduce this file in your php.ini.

First, you need to locate your php.ini file then edit it.

To find out the location of your php.ini file, the quickest way is to look it up in the php information which is displayed in the command prompt, like we did on step 1 of this tutorial. Open a command prompt and write:

$ php –i 

You will find the exact location of your php.ini file in the “Loaded Configuration File” section. Select the path of your php.ini file and copy it.


To edit the php.ini file, you can use any text editor. For example, in the command prompt you could use the Nano editor to edit the file as shown below.

nano editor

nano php.ini

However, this editor can be confusing and sometimes it’s challenging to use. We recommend to use Visual Studio Code (VS Code). To edit your php.ini in VS Code, write:

vscode editor php.ini

If you don’t see the word “code” in your path, you need to add it. Open VS Code, click View/Command Palette menu and select “Shell Command: Install ‘code’ command in PATH” as shown below:

vscode editor

After you opened the php.ini file in VS Code, add the following lines in it. Note that the file path will be the exact location in which you copied file.

Xdebug.remote_enable = 1; 
Xdebug.remote_autostart = 1; 

vscode editor Xdebug

8) Check the Xdebug installation

After completing all previous steps, make sure that Xdebug support is enabled and write the following code to see if the installation was successful.

$ php –i | grep xdebug 

grep Xdebug


You have completed the Xdebug installation with its full configuration. Now, you can begin debugging your code.

Related links